19 Février 2016
If all I remember are hallucinations, how can I rely on my own mind?
This week, I would like to tell you about a memoir rather than a novel. Susannah Cahalan was a self-confident and dynamic young woman who had started a promising career as a reporter for a major New York magazine when she started suffering from a collection of confusing disorders ranging from flu-like symptoms to mental troubles such as paranoia and euphoria. Although nobody could figure out what was wrong with her - or even if anything was wrong at all- her condition worsened until she had to be hospitalized. Still, her ordeal wasn't over yet. Even as she was hospitalized at NYU and cared for by some of the best doctors in the country, it took tons more tests and hypothesis before it was discovered that Susannah suffered from a newly discovered auto-immune disease that could be cured relatively efficiently. The originality of this memoir relies on the fact that, apart from the early stages of her disease, Susannah doesn't remember much of what happened to her during this "month of madness". This partial amnesia, associated to the second-hand knowledge of all the disturbing behaviors she had had during this period gave this smart and brave woman the urge to reclaim her mind. This book is part of this reconquest attempt. To piece together this moving and vivid account, Susannah used friend and family testimonies, in particular her father's diary, as well as medical documents and surveillance cameras videos, which confronted her with the disheveled and disoriented hospital patient she had become for a month. Besides being a profoundly meaningful testimony of reconstruction after a terrifying disease this memoir is also a reflection on how illness can at the same time afflict and bring together a family. Also, it puts the spotlight on a disorder that we are still getting familiar with but which seems to affect many people (mostly women) who cannot always be appropriately diagnosed and treated.
The death of Sicilian outlaw Salvatore Giuliano, which opens this movie, marks the end of a harrowing man-hunt, however it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Indeed, Giuliano was involved in the independence movement which spawned a set of unlikely and complex alliances between the outlaws, the police, the mafia and the carabinieri (the Italian military police). So who's working with whom? Who's responsible for Giuliano's death? What does it mean for the future of Sicily? We will never know all the answers but, through a number of flashbacks, the movie helps us understand the struggles that overtook Sicily after WWII. This movie is a truly neo-realistic piece, which deals with the worries, the wounds and the hopes of the people. But it is also more than that: it is a subtly revolutionary movie that refuses to give us the comfort of relatable characters or of a clear chronology, and, although it is narrated, it is done so with a dispassion that suggests a Flaubertian neutrality. Another of this movie's assets is its aesthetic: it presents us with such gorgeous shots that it constantly evokes art photography, in particular, the work of Mario Giacomelli. The black and white shots of the Sicilian countryside are so beautiful that I more than once fell into a contemplative state and forgot to read the subtitles.
La mort du hors-la-loi Sicilien Salvatore Giuliano, qui ouvre le film, marque la fin d’une harassante chasse à l’homme. Pourtant, elle laisse beaucoup de questions sans réponses. En effet, Giuliano était engagé dans le mouvement pour l’indépendance Sicilienne qui a donné lieu à un complexe réseau d’alliances inattendues entre les hors-la-loi, la police, la mafia et les carabinieri (la police militaire Italienne). Qui travaille donc pour qui ? Qui est responsable de la mort de Giuliano ? Qu’est-ce que cela suppose pour l’avenir de la Sicile ? Nous ne connaitrons jamais toute la vérité, mais, grâce à un ensemble de flashbacks, le film nous aide à mieux saisir les luttes qui ont affecté la Sicile à la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Ce film est une pure œuvre néo-réaliste qui se penche de près sur les soucis, les blessures et les espoirs du peuple. Mais il est aussi bien plus que ça : c’est un film secrètement révolutionnaire qui nous refuse le confort de personnages auxquels s’identifier ou même d’une chronologie claire. La narration même, faite sur un ton parfaitement impassible, relève d'une forme de neutralité flaubertienne. Une autre force majeure de ce film repose dans son esthétique : il nous présente des images si belles qu’elles évoquent constamment la photographie d’art, en particulier le travail de Mario Giacomelli. Les plans en noir et blanc de la campagne Sicilienne sont si beaux que plus d’une fois j’ai sombré dans un état de contemplation, oubliant même de lire les sous-titres.